• Montana Magazine

    Crafting a living: For Western Montana artisans, handmade is a way of life

    Story and photos by Jessica Lowry


    Across the state of Montana, individuals are using their hands to create their livelihood.  While it’s become trendy to eat artisan pickles from Brooklyn or purchase an entire hand-sewn outfit from the online retailer Etsy, across Big Sky Country the handmade movement has more to do with putting down your smart phone, picking up a craft and earning a living.

    From Leah Morrow and Mary Ryan who own and operate Selvedge Studio fabric shop in Missoula, to Melanie Cross who teaches knitting in Kalispell, creating items with your hands and teaching others to do the same isn’t just a fad.

    It’s a way of life.


    Leah Morrow and Mary Ryan

    Rows of brightly colored fabrics in cotton, linen and velvet line the walls of Selvedge Studio.

    “What we do here is provide the makers with beautiful and unusual fabrics,” said Leah Morrow, 32, of the shop in downtown Missoula, that she owns and operates with her mother Mary Ryan, 55.

    Selvedge Studio is in its eighth year of operation and in addition to selling fabrics, sewing notions, and patterns, the shop also offers sewing classes.

    “A lot of people don’t know how to sew and they want to,” Morrow said.

    The store provides a place for makers to learn new skills and work on projects.  They even host an annual Project Selvedge contest where entrants sew outfits for weekly design challenges.

    Morrow feels that the handmade movement has support from local community.

    “It’s definitely accepted and appreciated in Missoula,” she said.


    To read the rest of the profiles on Western Montana artisans who make their products by hand, find this issue on newsstands now. To read more about Montana all year, subscribe now.

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